70-year-old hermit airlifted to hospital after spending entire life in Siberian wilderness

For decades, her family survived on their homestead, where temperatures fell as low as -40°C

A 70-year-old hermit has been airlifted to hospital after spending her entire life in the Siberian wilderness.

Agafia Lykova, who is the last remaining member of a deeply religious family which fled persecution in 1936, was evacuated from her homestead near the Abakan river to a hospital in Tashtagol after suffering a pain in her legs.

After she phoned the "mainland" with an emergency telephone to ask for medical help, the Keremovo regional governor Aman Tuleyev ordered her evacuation by helicopter, according to the Kemerovo region website.

The Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper reported her leg pain was related to cartilage deterioration.

Ms Lykova and her family belonged to the Old Believer sect which split off from the Russian Orthodox church 350 years ago. Her father, Karp, fled with his wife and two children after a Soviet patrol shot his brother.

They settled more than 150 miles from the nearest village and by the time they were discovered by Soviet geologists in 1978 did not know Stalin was dead and had no idea of the second world war.

For decades, the family survived on their homestead, where temperatures fell as low as -40°C, their only reading material prayer books and an ancient family Bible. 

Doctors say they have now "removed the acute pain" in her legs and plan to keep Ms Lykova in hospital over the next week.